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Myanmar rice companies benefit from Thai expertise

Thai rice companies are now exploring new joint venture opportunities with their Myanmar counterparts -- the goal is to leverage on the untapped potential that Myanmar offers as a rice exporter. Myanmar was once the world's top rice exporter, before military rule.

YANGON: Rice in Myanmar is not just a staple food for its people, it is also one of the country's key industries.

It is believed that in 2011 alone, Myanmar's rice sector contributed about 13 per cent of the country's GDP. That GDP figure will only grow provided Myanmar partners other reputable international rice firms, like those in neighbouring Thailand.

Nay Lin Zin, joint secretary of the Myanmar Rice Millers' Association, said: "Nowadays, Thailand people very interested to invest in Myanmar and to cooperate with us because of Thailand's political instability and the price of Thai rice, (which is) higher than other competing rice exporting countries."

In recent months, many Thai rice exporters have been introducing their clients to Myanmar companies.

Kyaw Myo Htoon, director of the Ayeyar Hinthar Group of Companies, said: "Their motivation for Thai traders is they want to maintain relationship with buyers like the Chinese, because they are very big... So in order to do that, they bring their buyers here to introduce Myanmar rice to them.

"They help us to introduce the Myanmar rice variety to the world market... Especially Chinese buyers, they buy the Myanmar rice for industrial usage like making rice noodles, making rice wine as well as they're mixing with other varieties of rice. They mix and sell it to Chinese consumers."

Such collaborative efforts will also enable Myanmar to learn from their Thai partners' technological know-how, paving the way for them to tap onto their neighbour's existing pool of rice consumers.

Nay Lin Zin added: "If the Thailand business can cooperate with us, we can give more money to our people, to our Myanmar farmers and we can produce quality rice for a new market.

"I think after 2015 by cooperating with Thailand business people, especially in the rice sector, I think we can promote our rice export and we can increase our world ranking very soon."

Rice traders said many are happy that Myanmar is now starting to export more rice overseas. That is because 70 per cent of Myanmar's population live in rural areas and they are closely associated with the rice industry.

They say that if rice farmers are happy, that will snowball into other benefits, such as the ability to purchase more expensive goods and in greater quantities.

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